A couple years ago I made a version of these bars for dinner with my husband’s (vegan) friend. It was the first time I was meeting him. I had one vegan cookbook and very little knowledge of vegan baking, but they turned out reeeally good. So good, in fact, that my husband’s friend hasn’t shut up about them for 2 years. And so good that it is actually one of my most popular blog posts. Which I couldn’t stand.
Not because they’re vegan, not because the recipe wasn’t good. Because the photos sucked. So much suck. I would browse through Pinterest and see one of those photos pop up and I would cringe a little bit. It was one of my earliest blog posts, and I had no clue what I was doing. I’m still a little mad about these new photos because halfway through shooting a stack of bars, they toppled over and got all ugly before I got the shot right. But they’re still better than those ones from 2013.
I also wanted to alter the recipe slightly. The bars needed more filling, a better color, and more chew. And I got the feedback from a reader that they could be more lemony. So I added more lemon! I give my people what they want. Because I am a gracious ruler.
To give the bars more filling, I doubled the amount of tofu, but didn’t change the the amount of sugar. No need to make these mind-numbingly sweet. I added a bit more lemon juice and lemon zest to the filling, as well. To boost the lemon flavor even more, I processed the sugar with the Meyer lemon zest before adding the rest of the filling ingredient. The sugar crystals cut into the lemon zest and release their oils, which makes for all the yummies. That’s the scientific terminology. For toddlers.
Tapioca starch is my new BFF. I like it because it’s chewy and desserts made with it can be frozen and thawed, unlike ones made with cornstarch. Tapioca starch also finishes shinier and doesn’t dull flavors like corn starch does, so I’ve added it to my regular repertoire of starches (I have so many starches, you guys). Flour is the other thickener in this recipe, which I like because it lightens the color and makes the filling richer.
Since there are no egg yolks in these, the original version was very pale yellow. I wanted to make them a bit more colorful, so I added a small amount of turmeric. It doesn’t alter the flavor, but the color is significantly better!
One thing that omnivores won’t miss: that “eggy” taste that lemon bars sometimes have. Oh, and they’re about 100 fewer calories than traditional lemon bars.
So here is the updated recipe. Hopefully I won’t cringe at these photos in two years. But I probably will. Hey, any excuse to make these lemon bars again.
- ½ cup (110 grams) non-dairy butter, at room temperature (I used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks)
- ¼ cup (30 grams) confectioners' sugar
- 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons lemon zest from about 4 Meyer lemons
- 1 cup (240 grams) firm silken tofu
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice from about 4 Meyer lemons
- 2 tablespoons (15 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (15 grams) tapioca starch
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric, for color
- Confectioners' sugar, sifted (for serving)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 8x8 square baking pan with non-dairy butter, shortening, or coconut oil and sprinkle lightly with flour.
- To make the crust, cream together vegan butter and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer until light and fluffy. Add the flour, and beat until the dough begins to clump together.
- Turn out the dough into your greased baking pan and press evenly into the bottom. Poke a few holes in the top of the dough with a fork, then bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crust is light brown in color. Move to a wire rack and allow to cool while you make the filling.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine sugar and lemon zest and process until the sugar is yellow and fragrant. This releases the oils from the lemon zest and will make the final lemon bars more flavorful, so don’t skip this step! Add the tofu and process until smooth. Add lemon juice, flour, and tapioca starch and process to combine.
- Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling is mostly set (it may still be a little wiggly in the center). Cool completely on a wire rack, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour.
- Slice the bars into 8-16 even portions. Right before serving, dust the tops of the lemon bars with confectioners' sugar, if desired.
- Links are to vegan (bone char-free) sugars.